Monday, April 27, 2009

Bad Squirrel!

Well this weekend I caught the squirrel in the act of leaping over my fence into the strawberry patch. Just as he was ready to do his dirty work of digging up the plants only to leave them waste and die, not even to make a meal of the tasty roots and greens, I quickly cranked open the window and yelled, "Hey! Get out of there! Bad squirrel." And voila the squirrel listened and ran. For two days now he has been on good behavior. I hope it lasts. After all we have been totally feeding him and his family with the safflower seed they indulge in daily, the food which provided them the lush furry coats they had this winter. How about some gratitude. I guess a little conversation or bit of scolding CAN work some temporary magic with the wee non-human creatures.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Vegetable Seedlings Emerge!

Friday we finally got some 80 degree weather here in the Midwest. With the warmer temps, I am finally seeing my greens emerging (spinach, arugula, various lettuce and green varieties) and radishes.

The raised cedar beds are nearly complete. Just a few screws to secure my fence posts. I am finding it necessary to fence my beds as our yard has become a refuge for the squirrels and rabbits, of which both are Nazis when it comes to my flowers and vegetables. For the 2nd time this spring, despite my fencing around the strawberries, squirrel bastard dug up several strawberry plants, leaving them to dry and perish on top of the soil. He also ransacked my bareroot Bellwort planting, taking one small nibble and again leaving the roots to lie and perish. Fortunately I caught the travesty early enough and rescued the plant by soaking the roots which effectively revived the bareroot. I feel like I am on constant patrol.

It appears this year, my large flourishing Virginia Bluebells are not going to return. I fear I may have dug them up when I transplanted a junk perennial later in the season last year. I have a few smaller plants in other locations around the yard, but this plant was spectactular and well-established. Boo hoo.

Today a cold front moved in with thunderstorms dropping the temp from 85 degrees yesterday to late afternoon low today of 45 degrees. Despite the rain and cold outside I managed to get some broccoli raab, snow and sugar snap peas and more scallions planted. I also replenished the strawberry bed with additional bareroot plantings where the squirrel did his mischief. Tomorrow more fencing before the peas quickly emerge and the critters get to them. I am still puzzling as to how to keep the squirrels and chipmunks out of my vegetables. The rabbit proof fence isn't doing the trick (on a side note the movie Rabbit Proof Fence is highly recommended).

Well that's all for now on the garden front. Posts of garden photos to follow when I get better organized.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring activities in the garden and along the Mississippi

Lots has been going on. As always I'm either busy birding or gardening this time of year. Therefore I find little time to talk about what's happening. On the garden front, my seedlings for the first time ever, have aphids this year. I have sprayed several times with Safer insecticidal soap which I believe may have slightly damaged some of the seedlings. Kind of a bummer. My fault though. The aphids came in with house plants I had outside in pots over the summer and did not effectively spray when I brought them in this fall. Those little buggers were just waiting for the opportunity to explode in population and my seedlings provided the stimulus.

Despite the cold spring, I have started moving some of the seedlings outdoors into my greenhouse. I decided this year to cover the green house with 70% shade cloth to prevent the burning that occurs with hardening off my plants. So far so good. It's been too cold (30s and 40s) to keep the young tomatoes out in the green house. Those came in again this weekend.

This year I have been working on new cedar raised beds. Construction is almost complete. We spent Saturday in the rain trying to finish that project. I am also devising a better fencing system around the beds to keep the squirrels and rabbits out of the garden. As it is, the squirrel dug up most of the strawberry plants I planted within a day or so of planting. I have not done well with strawberries since moving here three years ago. Therefore I decided to dig up the old plants and start new. Time will tell.

On the native plant front, I spent Saturday birding along the Upper Mississippi and observing the spring plants that were blooming. Hepatica is blooming both in my garden and along the Mississippi in Grant County, WI. At Nelson Dewey State Park I saw the usual Pasque Flower, Hoary Puccoon and Bird's Foot Violet on the prairie trail. At Wyalusing State Park and along the Mississippi River Parkway, Bloodroot and Dutchmen's Breeches were starting to bloom. Here in Fort Atkinson, I've noticed my Bloodroot finally blooming after 3 years of waiting. More later with pictures of my garden progress.